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The Girls of Slender Means (New Directions Classic) Paperback – April 17, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

"Spark, as usual, has perfectly plotted and peopled this giddy world of postwar delirium and girls' dormitory life," said LJ's reviewer of this satirical novel (LJ 10/1/63), which follows the low-income female inhabitants of London's May of Teak Club in the summer of 1945. Spark is always worth having.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

Muriel Spark's novels linger in the mind as brilliant shards, decisive as a smashed glass is decisive.
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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Classic
  • Paperback: 140 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (April 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081121379X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811213790
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Muriel Spark (1918-2006) was a prolific Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet whose darkly comedic voice made her one of the most distinctive writers of the twentieth century. Spark grew up in Edinburgh and worked as a department store secretary, writer for trade magazines, and literary editor before publishing her first novel in 1957. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), considered her masterpiece, was made into a stage play, a TV series, and a film. Spark became a Dame of the British Empire in 1993.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Tom O'Leary on March 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one of Muriel Spark's most deftly written novels, right up there with her best: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Comforters. The writing here glimmers with wit and polish. It is as if the smartiest, wittiest, greatest storyteller in your life were telling this to you over the best dinner of your life in a cafe in Nice; you've gone through two bottles of wine, the candles are dying and the staff is dying to go home---but you must hear the story to the end! And when you do, you smile all over. You are thrilled to have been told this devilish tale.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 16, 1997
Format: Paperback
This has got to be one of the best novels ever, and practically anything pertaining to the mid- to late-20th century worth writing about is here. The consistent wit is a usual for Spark, but the warmth and even familiarity she shows for her (and with her) characters is rare. And just because it's not the size of War and Peace doesn't mean it lacks depth, meaning, power or insight into human nature. It has all that, and Dame Spark did it with elegance and style. Read it
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By lady detective on February 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
there are so many girls at the may of teck club ( group housing for 'the girls of slender means)- with so many third person points of view, that one almost needs a chart to keep them straight- who's rationing what? who's dating whom?
a few of the girls stand out, but their tales are so intermingled, & their lives so distantly described that i had a hard time caring. but as a fan of muriel spark's work, i kept at it, and was well paid off by the poignant & shocking ending.
spark did quite the job of showing the reader wartime london- with its' almost purposeful frivolities, willfullness to get on, and its' crushing realities.
i recommend it to fans of her work. i suggest starting with the 'prime of miss jean brodie' if you've had no prior introduction.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By twinterste on June 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
Don't get me wrong this was a good book but I got confused with all the characters. It kind of jumped around from person to person and from the past to the present. It was interesting reading about the stories of each of the girls. It didn't really seem to follow a story line. The story finally began to come together at the great ending then just kind of stopped. Not the best book I've ever read but its worth reading anyway.
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Format: Paperback
Spark was considered one of the major influences on British fiction in the post-World War II years, but I've never been quite sure how I feel about the body of her work. She had one really big hit, _The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,_ which was equally successful as a film, but nothing else she produced ever really seemed to come up to that level.

Her specialty was the short novel and this one, which comes about one-third of the way through her nearly fifty-year career, is typical and also one of her better efforts. The setting is the May of Teck Club in the Kensington district of London during 1945, a long-time hostel "for the pecuniary convenience and social protection of ladies of slender means below the age of thirty years" living and working in London. (Spark lived in a similar residence while working for Military Intelligence during that same period, following a failed marriage in Rhodesia.) The younger girls -- almost never "women" -- live in a dormitory on the lower floor while the older, more senior ones share bedrooms on the upper floors. The top floor bathroom has a casement window that allows access to the flat roof -- as long as one's hip measurement doesn't exceed 36¼ inches -- and which figures in the story as a meeting place for illicit relationships with men.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on July 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
The "Girls of Slender Means" are single young working women, nearly all under the age of thirty, at the May of Teck Club in London. The club is more or less a boarding house or a dorm at a women's college, where women with limited incomes shares rooms while sunbathing on the roof and sharing a Schiaparelli gown. There are so many women in the house that you almost need a chart to keep track of who's who and who does what job or dates which boy.

Its summer, 1945, at the very end of WWII. The story is told primarily from the perspective of Jane Wright, an assistant at a publishing house, whose life combines pragmatism with the idealism of the literary world. She becomes acquainted with semi-famous, anarchistic author Nicholas Farringdon, "on loan to the Americans," who's only interested in the May of Teck Club for one of its residents. The residents of the boarding house are still very much affected by the recent war; one of them, in tours of the building to prospective residents, shows them the place where a bomb nearly went off and another where, in her opinion, a bomb still was that never exploded.

The Girls of Slender Means is a lot like A Far Cry from Kensington in many respects: there's the boarding house, the overweight publishing employee, the post-war atmosphere. Muriel Spark's work tends to be a lot like that of Barbara Pym--there's a certain sort of quiet gentility in both writers' novels. I've mentioned this before, and I'll mention it again: Spark is witty. It's a charming story... except for the tragedy that occurs within.
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